Extreme weather events push toxic chemicals into our waters- and our bodies

Extreme weather events, which intensify with climate change, can make Americans sick in ways we are just now discovering. 

These weather events, such as flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires, knock chemicals and pollutants lose from soils, homes, and industrial sites. These pollutants are spread into the air, water and ground. When people are exposed to them, they can develop illnesses such as cancer and respiratory issues. 

An example of one of these chemicals is PCBs. Dr. Naresh Kumar, professor of environmental health at the University of Miami, has researched the spread of PCBs in Puerto Rico. They found that the amount of PCBs tripled after hurricane Maria to 450 parts per million. More troubling, however, was that people had shown elevated levels of these chemicals as well. Dr. Kumar hypothesized that this increase was caused by the hurricane pushing PCBs from old industrial sites into the water, where people ate contaminated fish.

Last year the World Health Organization released a report warning of public health effects of pollutants released during natural disasters, examples included events in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

It's not just industrial waste sites, these toxic chemicals can be found under our sinks, in our garages, even within the walls of our homes. When fires and hurricanes expose these chemicals and allow them to enter our air, water, and ground there is no way of controlling them. A number of studies are currently being conducted to examine the health effects of hurricanes and flooding on Americans. As the dangers are becoming better understood, governments need to do more to protect against toxic chemicals during extreme weather events. 

While fertilizers are hardly carcinogenic chemicals, they are a pollutant that can cause environmental and health effects as well. Sign the pledge to reduce nitrogen pollution from lawns. 


The single most important step you can take as an individual to combat climate change

      Fighting climate change as an individual can feel like a fool's errand. And it's true, there aren't many things that you alone can do that feel like meaningful steps against the existential threat of global warming. However, a recent study published at Yale University has concluded that there is a single, deceptively simple step that you can take to make a difference. The solution is talking about climate change...a lot. The report explains that while 70% of people believe in and care about climate change, the average person estimates that only 54% of their peers do.

      For this reason, while most people care about the issue, it is severely under-discussed. In fact, only about a third of people surveyed say they bring up the topic more than occasionally. Two suggestions from the researchers on how to best bring up the topic is to first frame climate threats in terms of pollution because it is a tangible impact, and also to simply begin the dialogue by asking questions.


     On this week's installment of Moir's Environmental Dialogues, Jessie and Morgan speak Carla Giannattasio, a senior at Tufts just beginning to enter the environmental career field, and Melissa Dann, who has spent decades working at various environmental organizations, from the World Wildlife Foundation to consulting with several others. Carla works for Hilton Intl. and contrasts her experience working with smaller and larger audiences and groups to achieve sustainability goals. We discuss the confusion of entering the working world as a young environmentalist, and also learned from Melissa that it's never linear and to explore what you are most passionate about the environment. Tune in to hear more of our conversation.

Tune in to this weeks episode here. Listen to our whole collection at this link:  https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1570/moirs-environmental-dialogues